Africa, closer than ever before?

Reply

May 21st, 2015, 04:32 AM
  #21
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,079
Ekscrunchy, thank you for the recommendation. I've dropped them a note. And will take a look at your reports.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 22nd, 2015, 11:15 AM
  #22
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 200
Hi Tripplanner001!

Here's some ideas for you..

Land in JNB and fly onward to Vic Falls. I'd spend 2-3 nights (max) there depending on 2 things: how well you deal with jet lag and how many adventure activities you are interested in. Some people do not want to bungee jump or go white water rafting if they are still dealing with the lag.. I would recommend The Elephant Camp. I would use Shearwater Adventures or Wild Horizons for your activities.

From VFA, I would fly to Cape Town via JNB. I'd stay 4 nights with 2 nights in the Wine Lands if staying over night there is important to you; otherwise, I would stay 5 nights in CT and just do day trips. The vineyard area is approx a 1 hour drive. There are many places to choose from to stay in either CT or the Wine Lands. Totally depends on your style of lodging: large or more boutique-oriented, bustling waterfront or more neighborhood-like. Many good ones to recommend...

You could then go to Sabi Sand and spend 6 nights. There are many to choose from that would suit your budget. Elephant Plains on the lower end is great value for what you get. Consistently very well rated. Kirkman's Kamp is another lovely lodge. Ngala (in neighboring Timbavati) is a nice complement to Kirkman's and being both AndBeyond lodges, you could secure a nice long stay discount. There are others as well.

An alternative to Sabi Sand is to go to Phinda in KwaZulu Natal and you could do 6 nights there split between 2 of their lodges, such as Forest and Mountain. It's a lovely private reserve with 7 distinct eco systems and one of the last sand floor forests left in the world. Forest Lodge is in it. Really interesting. The diversity there would be of great interest to you since you mentioned you wanted different landscapes. From that area, you can do a day trip to St Lucia Wetlands, a Unesco world heritage site, or a day trip riding in a jeep on the sand of Sodwana Bay in the middle of your 6 nights there. The dunes are some of the tallest and actually the only dunes that border an evergreen forest. You can get a pass and be one of only a handful of jeeps on the beach, a stretch of 320+ km of untouched coastline. Pretty spectacular. I have some incredible photos from one our trips there. If you 'd like to see them, please contact me via my profile.

If you wanted to throw Chobe into the equation, you could do 2 nights and if you were considering Kirkmans and/or Ngala, another AndBeyond lodge such as Chobe Under Canvas or Savute Under Canvas; however there are a number of other good lodges to choose.

I would not dedicate any time in Jo'burg unless you have to do an overnight on the front end of your trip. Many flights come in early AM in good time to take a flight out of there, such as to VFA. If you however need a cost effective solution for lodging at OR Tambo, I would recommend City Lodge OR Tambo which you can access via the airport through the parking garage. Fine ratings and gets the job done. The Intercontinental is lovely and pricey to match. Both work well.

It's such fun to plan, isn't it? Happy to help! Continue to ask questions as needed!

Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA, Owner
diannelovestravel is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 23rd, 2015, 08:17 AM
  #23
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,079
Dianne, thank you for your input. There's a lot to consider.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 14th, 2015, 04:57 PM
  #24
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,079
For folks who are familiar with Ngala and Kirkman's Kamp, both andBeyond properties in the greater Kruger area, could you fill me in on the pros and cons? And how do either compare with Elephant Plains, other than it being friendlier on the wallet? Thanks.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 14th, 2015, 06:01 PM
  #25
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,285
Ngala is in Timbavati. I was there (Lodge, not Tented) a few years back and, though it was nice (and it holds a special place in my heart because it's where I saw my first rhino!), it was my least favorite of the high end lodges we visited on that trip. It was more "hotel-y" than other places we visited and less casual. I like communal dining and it was not offered there. I have not been to Kirkmans but I planned a trip for my mother and I liked everything I read about it. It is in the southern part of Sabi Sand and the wildlife viewing should be excellent. My mother is a high end kind of woman. (We didn't take that trip. Big bummer!)

The biggest difference between the hig end camps and others is the service level. At EP, you will share a full vehicle, as many as ten people in three rows plus the front seat. At the high end camps, usually limited to 6 which is very nice for viewing, photos and for the ranger to not have to please as many people. Drinks and laundry will be included and the wine list will be outstanding. The food will be top notch. The rangers might be more experienced.

I visited Arathusa in the past. It won my business because there is a waterhole in camp - get a unit with a view! - and at the time was just a little more expensive than EP. Everything has been upgraded since we were there and it is a bit more pricey, but not too bad. They have an airstrip so getting there by scheduled charter is easy. They also have a larger traversing area than EP (the land they are allowed to use for game drives). I would also recommend the three Africa on Foot camps in Timbavati - they have a great reputation for excellent rangers and a more casual atmosphere. For more options in Sabi Sand check www.sabisand.com.
christabir is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 15th, 2015, 02:37 PM
  #26
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,079
Christabir, thank you very much. Right now, we are leaning towards Kirkman's but still evaluating options and will look at Arathusa.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 16th, 2015, 04:56 AM
  #27
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 200
Hi Tripplanner!

EP and Arathusa offer great value and, as Christabir, points out, Arathusa has a nice waterhole which is a wonderful benefit for guests.

Ngala and Kirkmans are both really lovely camps. This is a popular pair for our clients. The benefit of pairing these is the discount derived from doing a long stay. If you paired Kirkmans with Arathusa, you would obviously not benefit by the AndBeyond long stay discount. So I think that unless there is something steering you away from choosing either Ngala or Kirkmans, I would keep them paired as they are similar in level of service, ranger knowledge, food, number in the jeep etc. Other pairings would not be as equal on that front.

On another note, let's look at traversing area. EP and Arathusa are in the northern section of Sabi Sand. Kirkmans is in the southern section. EP has less traversing area than Arathusa. While Arathusa and Kirkmans have a similar amount of traversing area overall, Kirkmans benefits by having the Sand River which really adds a wonderful element to game drives and viewing. The Sabi does not flow as far north to EP and Arathusa.

Hope this helps you as you finetune your incredible trip!

Best
Dianne
Africa Direct USA
diannelovestravel is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 16th, 2015, 10:56 AM
  #28
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,079
Thanks Dianne. Very helpful. I am looking at only staying at one of these.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 22nd, 2015, 02:38 AM
  #29
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Enjoy SA. I have been over 10 times and explored most places you want to see in terms of game parks (Sabi Sand, Kruger, Phinda, Zululand, and Madikwe) and cities in the country, in addition to safari in Bots and Namibia. To put it mildly, I'm crazy about the country. But I disagree about skipping Joberg and I am always curious why folks are not interested in learning more about the history of the country and the world. Why Joberg...Cradle of Mankind, Soweto (Nelson Mandela's house, Desmond Tutu's house, authentic Black African cuisine, Hector Pieterson Museum to learn about the Soweto Bantu education uprising, fascinating street life, rich history and much more), the Apartheid Musuem (stunning architecture and rich history), great shopping for authentic crafts, fabulous hotels in beautiful neighborhoods, Liliesleaf Farm, Nelson Mandela Square, a look at many cultures in one place allowing you a look into the country's future without ignoring the all too painful past. It's a great city and worth more than just transiting through IMO. And I'm just scratching the surface with the above ideas. I happen to love all the other places you are considering visiting. My last visit was waking up this past Christmas morning in the Okavanga Delta and New Year's Eve staying at the Cape Grace in Capetown watching the fireworks on the V&A waterfront. And, of course, many days in Joberg in between. Best of luck in planning.
Lolazahra is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 22nd, 2015, 10:07 AM
  #30
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,079
Lolazahra, appreciate the advice and suggestions on Johannesburg. Right now I'm budgeting 2 or 3 nights in the city, depending on whether or not we will venture into the Drakensbergs.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 22nd, 2015, 05:13 PM
  #31
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Tripplanner001,

I think you will be happy dedicating 2 to 3 nights to Joberg, especially since you are "looking for a well-rounded experience in SA with many elements." There are cultural and historical aspects/elements that you can experience in Joberg that no other city in the country can provide. Most tour companies who understand Joberg, can amp up your trip and provide you with a rich, safe and rewarding experience. You have received fantastic advice from other posters about the rest of SA, please do not hesitate to ask me more about Joberg.
Lolazahra is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 22nd, 2015, 06:25 PM
  #32
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,079
Lolazahra, thank you for the offer. I will for sure take you up on it when I'm thinking of things to do. Any suggestions of where to stay? Looking for a nice boutique property with character in a safe neighborhood walkable to restaurants and unique shops.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 23rd, 2015, 05:18 PM
  #33
 
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 30
Hi Lolazahra,

We will be in SA this July... and i'm still planning our return from Elephants Plains to Johannesburg. We will still have two nights 25 and 26 and three days before our flight home 7pm.
I read your posts here along with everyone's and with your experience of being to SA 10 Times, can i please ask your (and everyone's!) opinion on this possible route back from Kruger park?

I found this suggestion below.

So, after we exit Sabi sand by Gowrie gate returning from EP (25th), do you think it is a good idea to enter the KNP again and drive around and maybe exit by another gate closer to the Panorama route(??)

Then we can get to the northern part of the Panorama Route, driving via Hoedspruit and the Strijdom Tunnel and then turning left onto the R532. Stopping at The Three Rondavels (Blyde River Canyon view point), Bourke's Luck Potholes, Berlin Falls, and a few other view points, and make it to Graskop by sunset... (?)
Then the suggestion continues with heading back the following morning to do the short R534 loop north of Graskop to view the Pinnacle and God's Window, and perhaps came back south to stop at Lisbon Falls, before making our way to Johannesburg.

If we do this and stay overnight in Graskop. We will have one more night and day before flying home(7pm).
Where would you suggest to spend them? (incl Johannesburg)

Will it work for example, if after a night at Graskop, in the morning of 26th, we will drive to Soweto, tour there, and stay for a night somewhere there..?

OR should I reconsider and stay another night in the park (from 25 to 26) and from 26 to 27 in Graskop and drive to jnb on 27 for 7pm flight home?...

Thank you!
Olia_ok is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 28th, 2015, 05:55 AM
  #34
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,079
Africa, here we come!!

Just confirmed and paid our deposits for the most expensive portion of our trip - the once-in-a-lifetime safaris. Working with a local travel agent, we will be staying at Kirkman's Kamp in Sabi Sands for 4 nights followed by 2 nights at Ilala Lodge at Victoria Falls and 3 nights at Chobe Under Canvas. We're pumped!

Now to the other portions of our trip: Cape Town, the Winelands, and Johannesburg. We are looking at 5 nights in the Mother City, 2 or 3 nights in the Winelands, and 2 or 3 in Johannesburg.

Johannesburg: Any suggestions on a nice boutique hotel in a safe neighborhood with the ability to walk to shops and restaurants?

Drakensburgs: Now that we are not going to the Okavango Delta or Impalila Island, we are thinking about perhaps 3 or 4 nights in the Drakensburgs. Which section offers the best in terms of variable scenery accessible from day hikes? We won't be hiring a vehicle so the challenge will be getting to and from Johannesburg. Suggestions appreciated.

We're 10 months away, but could not be more excited. Thanks for getting me this far already.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 8th, 2015, 02:38 PM
  #35
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,079
Any thoughts on my two questions below? Thanks.

Johannesburg: Any suggestions on a nice boutique hotel in a safe neighborhood with the ability to walk to shops and restaurants?

Drakensburgs: We are thinking about perhaps 3 or 4 nights in the Drakensburgs. Which section offers the best in terms of variable scenery accessible from day hikes? We won't be hiring a vehicle so the challenge will be getting to and from Johannesburg.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 8th, 2015, 07:00 PM
  #36
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,285
Could you tell us what you are doing? I go to S Africa for safari, and just can't imagine spending what looks like a lot of time in cities and hiking. I know your budget is pretty tight and you don't want to self drive, so staying in areas that are more convenient would be better. I haven't spent any time in Joberg so can't help with a hotel. We did stay at the hotel at the Cradle of Humankind and it was very nice, all inclusive. If you don't have a car, I'm not sure how you could possibly stay in Drakensburgs.

So i would head down to Kwazulu Natal for lots of fun things to do, and very inexpensive places to stay. You will spend some of your budget and time getting there, but logistically will work better for you. Fly to Richards Bay (or Durban, cheaper flights but more expensive road transfer) and contact one of the lodges in Zululand Rhino Reserve to pick you up (we love Rhino River Lodge). Most of the lodges are under $150 pppn all inclusive except fror drinks, and in a huge, over 25,000 hectare, big five reserve that has excellent cheetah, rhino (obviously) and lions, plus they just released wild dogs. Stay for three nights and then get a ride to St Lucia.

St Lucia is my current favorite place. It's is the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a unesco World Heritage Site. Ride horses with Impala and zebra or on the beach, kayak with hippos and crocs, night safaris, whale watching, snorkel/scuba and too much more to mention. Oh yeah, gorgeous beaches on the gorgeous, warm Indian Ocean!! There are many self catering and full service lodges (cheap) with a nice supermarket right in town. Lots of good options for restaurants. Everything is in walking distance, and the tours you schedule can include a ride to the venue. Love it. Just don't walk off the main drag at night - there are lots of hippos who come into town to eat. Such a fun place.

Then arrange a ride (there's a shuttle if you prefer) to Richards Bay and fly back to Joberg to fly home.

Instead of the Zululand Rhino Reserve you could go on overnight hiking trips in Hluhluwe imFolozi National Park. They are highly recommended by the experts, with excellent guides in a very important park. Over on safaritalk, a group just came back and Game Warden wrote an excellent trip report, but it was the most basic, longest camping hike. I would do an easier one! He also did a good trip report for his St Lucia visit that makes me want to go back even more.

I just think without a car you should reconsider things a little. The above is a relatively inexpensive option that could be your favorite part of the trip!

Have fun planning, and please let us know what your current itinerary is so we can help.
christabir is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 9th, 2015, 03:56 AM
  #37
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,079
Christabir, right now, we have:

Cape Town - 5 nights
Winelands - 3 nights
Sabi Sands (Kirkman's Kamp) - 4 nights
Victoria Falls (Ilala Lodge) - 2 nights
Chobe (Chobe Under Canvas) - 3 nights
Johannesburg - 3 nights

I have 7 nights of safari total between Sabi Sands and Chobe, so I think I am good there. Wanted to add some hiking and thought about the Drakensburgs given the proximity.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 10th, 2015, 12:47 PM
  #38
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 355
To trip planner 001. I would definitely go to the SA wineries. I too have been all over world tasting wine and live near the wine country of California. It is always fun to taste wines from different terroir and the scenery in the Winelands is amazing- more beautiful than California wine country! They make some very good reds and I think the whites are getting better. We did not buy any wines except what we thought we could drink while on vacation. We were NEVER pressure to buy wine. In fact I have always been more pressured to buy wine here in the US.
zinfanatic is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 11th, 2015, 01:43 PM
  #39
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,079
Zinfanatic, thanks. My current thinking is to base in Franschhoek, do some wine tasting, hiking in the surrounding areas, shopping, and just relaxing.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:28 AM.